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Oppose New SNAP Rule That Increases Hunger Among 700,000 Americans

By Alana Williams and Ed Yowell

Despite overwhelming public comment in opposition, including ours, on Dec. 4th, the Trump administration issued a final Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) rule that would limit states’ ability to waive work requirements in still depressed, high-unemployment areas for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) receiving SNAP benefits, pulling food assistance out from under about 700,000 Americans. This harsh resolution denies Americans food assistance when they need it most, when they are without employment, and even the administration does not estimate any improvements in employment to result from the ruling.

Work requirements of 80 hours a month have long been included in eligibility for SNAP, but up until now, states could create waivers for 18-49 year-old recipients in areas of high unemployment. The new rule denies states’ ability to do so unless the area experiences an unemployment rate of 6% or above.

A primary motivation behind the ruling is to cut government spending. But at what cost? The USDA Economic Research Service has found that every dollar in SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity and keeps vulnerable food retailers and many small and mid-scale farmers in business. Trump’s secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue defended the ruling by calling it “respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program.” But with billions of agricultural subsidies going to the richest commodity farmers each year, this ruling is more anti-poor than it is just pro-taxpayer.

The original waivers played a large role in keeping food on the table for severely impoverished people. The Mathematica Policy Research and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that 97% of those affected by this ruling live in poverty, and 88% have a household income of less than $600 a month. This might also include low income, part-time college students and make it harder for them to complete their degrees, despite findings that education is strongly linked with increased financial prospects.

As Craig Gundersen, an agricultural and consumer economics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign points out, “SNAP is an anti-hunger program — full stop, it’s not supposed to encourage people to work. It’s supposed to end hunger in our country, and it does a fantastic job at that.”

Stacy Dean, the food assistance policy vice president at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities emphasizes that the change would do nothing to help anyone find work and would only “increase hardship and hunger.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI), called the new rule “callous” and the administration who passed it “out of touch.” The Senator went on to say that added work requirements to SNAP had been overwhelmingly voted down in Congress in the last Farm Bill, making this ruling a side-step around the will of Congress.

Join us in strongly opposing this ruling, which would plunge so many Americans deeper into poverty.

Use our template to e-mail or phone your state Representatives (who can be found here!) about co-sponsoring bills that would roll back this harmful rule;

  • H.R. 2809 Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2019, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), which would nullify the work requirement that renders ABAWDs ineligible for SNAP and
  • H.R. 5349 To prevent the changing of regulations governing the provision of waivers under the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), which would specifically prevent the changing of regulations governing the provision of waivers under SNAP.

Here is the message to convey:

I urge you to Co-sponsor H.R. 2809, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee, and H.R. 5349, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, that would roll back the new USDA Final SNAP Rule on state ABAWD waivers that do nothing to help anyone find work and would only increase hardship and hunger among more than 700,000 Americans.